Chapter 1. An Accidental Encounter
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‘Does he want to say anything to me?’
When he didn’t say anything, Nelia opened her mouth first.
“Yes, you may go ahead.”
Nelia mentalized herself and mentioned what he said earlier.
“I don’t know why you said that just now, but I sincerely thank you for your help. I’m the one who made the necklace like that, so…….”
“I know you’re not the real culprit.”
Nelia opened her eyes wide.
If he knew she wasn’t the real culprit, he must have been watching from the moment Leighton dropped the necklace.
Duke Hart grinned.
“It’s the payback for helping me last time.”
“What…? When did I…….”
“It’s fine if you don’t remember it.”
Duke Hart said it was fine if she didn’t, but Nelia felt very awkward at that moment.
‘Did Nelia have a tie with Duke Hart in the original story…….?’
Nelia must have been a great help to the duke, so he thought to come forward in this kind of situation…….
She tried to remember, but Nelia was an extra and her past had never been explained.
She was thinking about the original story as hard as she could, wondering if there were any other clues, but she heard Duke Hart’s voice.
“May I know about your relationship with the person from earlier?”
It was such an unexpected question. Nelia replied, dropping her gaze.
“He’s my older brother…….”
She was ashamed of him. She couldn’t believe he was her older brother. She had nothing to say even if Duke Hart were to criticize him for having that kind of an older brother.
“Glad to know he’s your older brother.”
But the duke said something she couldn’t understand.
He was glad someone like Leighton was her older brother?
‘Is he making fun of me……?’
However, he didn’t look like he was being sarcastic or making fun of her with a face filled with angelic smile.
The duke said with a smile.
“Do you mind telling me your name?”
“Yes, your name.”
Nelia replied awkwardly at the belated introduction.
“My name is…….Nelia.”
Duke Hart recited her name quietly.
She intentionally excluded her surname, but seeing that he didn’t ask, it seemed he wasn’t really curious about where he was coming from.
At that moment, a loud voice rang out from the second floor.
When she looked up at the sound, an unrecognizable man was sticking out his face from the second floor and looked at Duke Hart.
“Here you are. His Majesty is looking for you!”
“I’ll be there soon.”
Duke Hart answered the man who came to look for him emotionlessly before looking at Nelia again.
“I must take my leave now.”
Nelia thanked the man who showed up just in time and whisked him away.
They almost continued the awkward conversation.
The duke smiled softly, unaware of Nelia’s innermost thoughts.
His silver eyes gleamed delicately under the lighting.
“I’ll see you next time.”
‘I’ll see you next time……?’
His words were strange, as if they were going to meet again soon.
When Nelia returned to the party hall, she found Leighton sitting beside their parents and quickly put her thoughts about the duke aside.
‘This jerk……. He should’ve been like that before.’
Nelia sat beside Leighton with a glare.
“Oh, you’re here.”
‘You’re here?’ She barely managed to hold back the cursing that almost escaped her mouth.
Leighton had finally come back to his senses and was seemingly aware of the disaster he had caused earlier.
“If you hadn’t come forward… I would have done a great job at taking care of him.”
He must have handled it well.
The man who tried to lunge at the crown prince and knocked him out.
“Stop talking about earlier.”
Nelia replied coldly, and Leighton asked hesitatingly.
“Was it Duke Hart?”
“Yes, it was Duke Hart.”
“But why did he…….? I’m sure I dropped the necklace and broke it.”
He knew that, but he didn’t even say thank you?
The more she got to know Leighton, the more astonishing his personality was.
“I don’t know either.”
Leighton glanced at Nelia while stroking his chin.
“There’s no way I would have been attracted to you…….”
“Nevermind, don’t say ridiculous things.”
Nelia casted one last glare at Leighton and made up her mind. She would have to tell their parents regarding what happened after the party.
If Leighton did this again, her life span might be shortened.
At that moment, a middle-aged man with a nicely-trimmed beard stood in front of the podium.
The band stopped playing as they were about to proceed with the official party schedule.
Wearing a white party suit adorned with gold embroidery engraved gorgeously and a red badge, he looked like a man with high status.
“Looks like His Majesty is going to give a speech.”
“I guess so.”
She could hear the conversation of her parents, which was full of expectation.
As she predicted, the person in the front was the Emperor, the host of this party, ‘Archen Rashian’.
“Everyone, I would like to express my gratitude for your presence today.”
Beside the Emperor was the handsome man she saw earlier.
It was Prince Carlos, who she had unexpectedly encountered just an hour ago.
“I’m here to officially introduce my son, who was crowned as the crown prince, to all of you today.”
The Emperor’s gaze shifted to Carlos, who stood beside him.
Carlos gave a light nod and stepped onto the podium. He looked around with a sharp gaze similar to earlier.
“I’m the proclaimed crown prince, Carlos Rashian. I depend on your cooperation.”
Carlos bowed slightly and came down from the podium after giving a very curt introduction.
Nelia’s mouth opened in surprise.
That was the only thing he had to say in front of a lot of people.
It was an impressive introduction.
‘Of course, I know he held many grudges to the world, but…….’
He was born as an illegitimate child and has been subjected to a lot of contempt and discriminated against up until now.
Not to mention that they also criticize him for being an ignoble birth, so the officials and nobles refused to acknowledge his existence. He was close to being someone who was being treated like a complete nobody.
The reason why everyone was pleased when Carlos was sent as the commander-in-chief to a dangerous war where they would be likely to lose was because they didn’t want him to return.
Carlos knew it better than anyone else, so he gritted his teeth and led them to victory.
Like this, she was aware of the pitiful background of Carlos growing up, but she was astonished that he wasn’t embarrassed by showing such an open attitude on his first official occasion.
She was able to sense his cranky and twisted personality deeply.
Nelia looked at Leighton.
‘This jerk, he almost threw a punch at the Crown Prince.’
Thinking about what happened earlier, her heart felt as if it started pounding again.
‘Huft, this man.’
Nelia gave her brother, Leighton, a pitiful look before getting up from her seat.
The party officially began when Carlos gave his greeting, so she couldn’t help but sit down.
Of course, she didn’t mean to do a dance. Her shoes were uncomfortable, so falling in the middle of the dance would be a perfect scenario that was likely to happen.
She couldn’t eat properly because she made several eye contacts with Duke Hart earlier, so now she should be enjoying it in earnest.
Compared to the discarded strawberry sandwiches at the convenience stores, dessert of the imperial palace was on another level.
As she was about to go, Leighton asked.
“Where are you going?”
“You don’t have to know.”
Nelia walked away quickly just in case Leighton decided to follow her.
In the midst of the crowd, she followed the sweet smell like Hansel and Gretel, and before she knew it, she had arrived at the table.
What Delia picked was a chocolate-filled cookie.
The crumbled cookie had gone inside her mouth. The wonderful flavor and sweet taste entered through her brain.
Nelia ate up cookies and other desserts as if it was just her in that place.
After going through the crisis, the sweet cookies were like a reward for herself.
Nelia busily moved her hand as she got carried away by the ecstasy in her mind.
And then at that moment,
“I am sorry, I’ll have to pass by!”
A young lady passed by her quickly and bumped hard into Nelia’s shoulder.
The young lady, who bumped into Nelia’s shoulder, seemed to be in a hurry and left without a word of apology.
As a result, Nelia lost her balance and stumbled.
It wasn’t possibly enough to correct her posture with her feet wearing thin and pointed heels.
Nelia closed her eyes tightly with a strong hunch that she would greet the floor in no time.
There was a more frightening sound than a bang! The sound was more frightening than a thump!
There was a soft feel touching on the heel of her pointed shoes.
“What is it……? What’s under my feet…….’
There was something firm under it.
She was anxious even though she didn’t end up falling to the floor.
Somehow, she thought that the prince wasn’t the one who saved her.
She had a remarkable sense of survival from her previous life.
Didn’t she realize it when the moneylender stormed in, or when the convenience store manager announced the closure of the store?
‘Of course, nothing changed just because I knew it.’
She’s still like that now.
Surely, she was anxious, but it was impossible to jump up on her feet and run away.
At the very least, she would have to apologize.
Nelia moved her stiff body and turned around slowly.
Nelia was momentarily speechless.
Because the person she had stepped foot on.
Looking from up close, he was undoubtedly Duke Hart, who looked like the masterpiece of a master artisan.
“Why, why are you here…….”
“I did not expect to see you again so soon.”
Duke Hart had a meaningful smile on his face.
She was surprised, too.
She didn’t expect to meet someone who just parted with her from earlier so soon.
“Are you alright……?”
“What do you mean?”
His feet were under her’s.
Nelia’s gaze went down to the floor. Her white shoes landed on top of Duke Hart’s black leather shoes.
It must have been quite painful as she landed forcefully on top of his feet in a haste.
“Ah, your feet…….”
Duke Hart clipped his words.
Meanwhile, Nelia, who realized her foot still remained on top of his foot, hurriedly stepped off his foot.
And when she was about to move away, Duke Hart’s hand, which was wrapped around Nelia’s waist, pulled her hard as if it was his reaction, and the upper part of her body tilted backward.
Nelia was taken aback for a moment, but she didn’t tumble backward thanks to Duke Hart, who quickly supported her from behind.
But the only problem was…….
His face was too close. Duke Hart’s thin fine hair tickled her forehead as it fell down.
“I apologize for suddenly pulling you, Nelia.”
When the gentle voice was heard right in front of her face, Nelia pushed away the duke’s chest out of surprise, forgetting to ask why he pulled her.
“P-Please put some distance……!”
The duke held Nelia to stand upright on her feet and released his arms from her waist. She wasn’t sure why, but there was a light smile on his face.
Nelia tried to relieve the embarrassment inside her and pretend nothing happened by muttering a question.
“Your foot… Is it alright?”
“I’m not sure.”
The duke looked down at his feet.
His face was serious.
Rather than looking like he was in pain, he seemed to be contemplating something seriously.
“I don’t know yet.”
Nelia nodded with an anxious face.
Usually, if people got into a car accident, they wouldn’t know the symptoms right away. The aftereffect would only occur later.
Of course, stepping on someone’s foot couldn’t really be compared to getting into a car accident, but……
Nelia had cloudy eyes. With that in mind, she glanced down at her feet. The heels of her shoes were glistening fiercely.
“If you aren’t sure right now, you may tell me later.”
“How should I tell you?”
Duke Hart asked, taking his eyes away from his feet.
‘…….I just realized it.’
It’s not possible to make a phone call here.
“Find me at the house of Count Benedict. At 135 Chante Street, downtown.”
That was the correct address.
Nelia tried to recall it again, and the similar number popped up. She thought it was the right number.
She didn’t want to give him her address, but it was her conscience that prevented her from letting it slide.
“The mansion is bigger than the buildings around it, so you will be able to find it without difficulty.”
As she added more explanation as clues, Duke Hart lowered his gaze and muttered quietly.
“135 Chante Street……”
The duke grinned softly.
“All right. I’ll be there if anything happens.”
Although the smile on his lips bothered her, it was no use.
She was left with no choice other than nodding her head and suppressed the uneasiness she felt.
The eventful party had ended.
In the carriage on the way home, Nelia mentally sighed as she looked at the full moon in the sky.
In this strange world, the moon was the only familiar thing to her.
Even in her previous life, she used to go home late at night after finishing her part-time job, and she would look at the moon as a way to comfort herself.
She wanted to take comfort from the moon because she was oppressed by Carlos, Duke Hart, and the events that hit her continuously one after another.
“The Crown Prince is really attractive.”
“I know. After all, the biological mother of His Highness is a well-known singer with a beautiful face…….”
She heard her parents talking with each other in the quiet carriage.
“Tch, handsome my a*s.”
Leighton scoffed sarcastically.
On the other hand, Nelia agreed with her parents.
‘He’s indeed handsome.’
Carlos was the son of Hanatia, a world-wide singer who has toured the empire, with the current emperor.
The emperor didn’t know that Hanatia was pregnant. Having shared a flaming night out of anger.
One day, the emperor was very surprised when Hanatia came to him with a baby in her arms, but it’s just was not a bad thing for him.
This was because the empress died in the early age due to illness, and he had no son who would succeed him.
Therefore, the emperor gave Carlos, his illegitimate son, a chance to become a crown prince despite the objection from the people around him.
Carlos didn’t miss the opportunity granted to him even if he was an illegitimate child.
“Duke Hart was incredibly dignified, too. Not to mention his appearance.”
“The duke is a man with a very great reputation. In addition to that, the only one who is trusted and relied on by the emperor.”
This time, Duke Hart was the next subject in their conversation. Nelia, who was listening beside them, became serious once again.
She didn’t expect to bump into him twice at the party…….
After that, Lily put her hand on her cheek and tilted her head.
“But why is someone as perfect as him not paired with anyone else?”
Sean hummed and whispered in Lily’s ear.
“According to the rumor…….”